The webcomics blog about webcomics

Darryl Was Kind Enough Not To Call Us “Bitches”

Grey, dreary day. High humidity, just cool enough to make all the moisture hang in the air. A melancholy climate, and well-suited to some indoor entertainments. I know, let’s read some comics on the internet!

  • Not that I begrudge Randall Munroe’s use of Bitches way back in comic #54, but Darryl Cunningham is attempting to be a bit more … conciliatory, perhaps? And he’s got more than 100 panels to deal with the topic of the validity of the scientific method and why science denialism is stupid, to Munroe’s one; it’s a slow build as opposed to a single knockout punch — it simply wouldn’t have worked in this context¹. Unsurprisingly, Cunningham has done as good a job as he has on his earlier comics, despite the inherent handicap of having a much broader, less sharply-defined topic (“science”) than in his previous investigative comical endeavours (examining things like the nonscientific denials of vaccine safety, evolution, or climate change).

    Speaking of, the journal comics of Tyler Page and his story of ADHD are pretty similar in tone and character to Cunningham’s Psychiatric Tales, and he’s just posted chapter two. Go get it.

  • Know what’s great? Achewood². Know what’s also great? People interpreting Achewood in their own styles. Case in point: Magnolia Porter (of the entirely-wonderful, recently concluded Bobwhite, and the even more wonderful and ongoing Monster Pulse) has decided to take some inspiration from Achewood characters, and set herself the challenge of drawing one a day for fifty days.

    In case her launch (yesterday) with Teodor made you suspect she would be limiting herself to series regulars, please note that today’s winner is Todd’s friend Little Freddie, who has not been seen for lo these many years. Me, I’m waiting to see when we get Rod Huggins, Sidney Yamahata, Sound and Motion, Cartilage Head, and especially Rameses Luther.

  • Stripped: funded at 188% of goal, and just barely shy of the level that Freddave Kellett-Shroeder declared would let them add Dolby sound, mucho animations (from indie animators, naturally), closed-captioning, and more interviews. I’m guessing that somehow, they’ll find a way to make those extended goals happen, maybe with “mucho animations minus one animation”. Many congrats to Dave, Fred, and the 2600 people besides myself who pitched in, and will now assuredly get the documentary they were dreaming of.

¹ For more on using “bitches” as a bit of lexical color, consider the case of newly-minted MacArthur Genius Jad Abumrad and his mom .

² Which I suspect, but I do not have hard evidence for this suspicion, will be dropping some new content on us in or around the imminent 10th anniversary of Philippe standing on it.

Unfortunate Happenstances

Things don’t always work out for the best, but that doesn’t mean that they’re completely unworkable.

  • For instance, Thought Bubble — a weeklong celebration of comics in Leeds, UK, that culminates in a weekend comics convention — lost its traditional November dates and had to relocate. Unfortunately, that puts it in close proximity to SPX, which led more than one creator to tell me that they had to choose between doing one show and the other. Thought Bubble’s made the best of the situation, though, and will run their comics show with an impressive list of guests and exhibitors, from both sides of the Atlantic.

    On the Guests list (which is helpfully divided into Writers, Artists, and All on the website), you have webcomics luminaries such as Jon Allison, Darryl Cunningham, Marc Ellerby, Cameron Stewart, and Spike Trotman. The page is laid out with nice big images and names, and each links to a page about the guest — easy to navigate and intuitive to use!

    On the Exhibitor front, Thought Bubble did something I’ve not seen before that I really liked; the show is spread out across different venues, and thus there are multiple exhibitor pages, one per venue.

    Unfortunately, the layout of the pages requires a good deal of effort to decipher — exhibitors are shown by an image, which may be a character, a scene, or a photo. Names are sometimes present, sometimes not, and they’re seemingly arranged alphabetically by URL of all things. As a result, it’s tough to pick out who’s attending without clicking through to every website, which I’m not gonna do. I can tell you that Tom Siddell will be at the Cookridge Street Marquee, and that by chance the comiXology Marquee has a significant number of avatars with names on them.

  • In a completely different kind of unfortune, A Girl And Her Fed creator KB “Otter” Spangler has a dying tablet, which makes it hard to draw stuff. By good fortune, however, she was putting the finishing touches on a new novel last week¹, so she’s got a new thing to sell and hopefully get back to the art game. Stoneskin is Hogwarts in space (cosmic beings beyond our ken performing the stand-in for magic) meets trade empires, and it’s a hell of a good read.

    It’s completely different from her other books (set in the world of a single near-future technology, and the societal and political upheavals it causes), but it’s unmistakably Spangler’s writing. Even better, it’s a preface to a planned trilogy, which means I (and you, I suppose) get to read another 750 to 1000 pages of her writing, so yay. It’s entirely worth your five bucks, is what I’m saying.

Spam of the day:

Stop taking the wrong blood pressure drugs and try this out

124 +/- 4 systolic, 80 +/- 4 diastolic, bitches. I once had a cardiologist tell me that I will obviously die of something, but it won’t be heart disease.

¹ At least, it was a little less than two weeks back when she asked if I wanted to be an beta reader for it. As has been well-established on the page previously, Spangler is a very close personal friend, I love her work, and I wrote the foreword for her first book. I believe that’s us sufficiently disclaimed.

Things You Want To Check Out

It’s unusually busy for a Wednesday. Here are some things you may want to observe in the near term.

Today! Okay, we’ve all pulled the odd all-nighter and felt like crap the next day, but do any of us know what real sleep deprivation is like? Unless you’ve been through elite military training (some kind of special forces, or SERE), the answer’s probably no … and even your SOCOM operators might shudder at the thought of 205 consecutive hours — eight and a half days — without sleep.

The story of four guys (of course it’s guys) that did exactly that in service to a medical experiment in the early ’60s (of course it was the ’60s … it would never pass ethical review today) to determine if enough lost sleep would turn a person permanently psychotic is brought to us by Olivia Walch over at The Nib today.

I want to make sure you didn’t miss the word permanently in that last sentence, and I wonder if the investigators were prepared to deal with a subject that wound up permanently damaged.¹ It’s equally fascinating and terrifying, and it’s made me want to trawl all of Walch’s comics … they aren’t all about deranged science experiments, but some are about math, so I’ll take it.

Today! Mary Cagle brings the sequential part of her diary comic, Let’s Speak English! (an account of the 2.5 years she spent in Japan, as an English language classroom assistant in a series of elementary schools) to an end. There may be other strips, but this is the conclusion of the time to return to the States story arc that began here, and progressed through tearful, sometimes painful goodbyes.

It’s been an enlightening, sometimes myth-deflating time following Mary-sensei as she navigated a very foreign culture and all the memorable bits therein. Let’s all thank Cagle for her efforts and encourage her to do her best forever!²

In One Week! Jim Zub’s latest creator-owned comic, Glitterbomb, releases its first issue to comic shops; I talked about it (mostly his artist, Djibril Morissette-Phan, in my SDCC interview with Zub … he is super good at art, you guys), but didn’t tell you much about the book beyond the descriptor Chtonic horror, so let’s remedy that a bit.

It’s a satire of Hollywood. With elder demons, bloody death, and a mid-30s actress who’s not quite good enough to avoid being discarded because she’s no longer 24. It’s about the need for fame, how our society is evolved to deliver it, and what happens when we don’t achieve our dreams.

The first issue doesn’t have anybody acting in a particularly malevolent manner (at least, nobody human), but does feature some really thought-provoking (and guts-spraying) situations about what happens when the desperation to be loved (personally, by the public with their attention) overcomes our social conditioning. It does all of that by page two.

If you’ve ever wondered what will happen to the entire Kardashian clan when the public collectively decides not to pay attention to them any longer, pray (if you’re the praying type) it’s more like Norma Desmond and less like Glitterbomb.

Some Point In The Not Too Distant Future! The Joe Shuster Award nominations (Les nominés pour le prix Joe Shuster 2016) are out, and webcomicky types are all over the place. Names like Fletchter, Immonen (Kathryn), North, Zdarsky, Lemire, Belanger, Immonen (Stuart), Staples, Stewart, DeForge, Tamaki, Chmakova, and Soo are to be found across all categories.

I’ve said to before and I’ll say it again: Canada has the greatest density of comics talent to population of anyplace in the Western Hemisphere, and possibly the world. The Shuster Awards will be presented at a time and venue to be announced, in Fall 2016.

Spam of the day:

Get a free tactical headlamp with an adjustable focusing beam!

Dudes, headlamps are about the nerdiest thing ever, why do you think it’s the key element of Frontalot’s stage persona? You’re just overcompensating your nerdshame by trying to convince me yours is tactical. Show me it’ll hold up to the rigors of a week of mud, rain, sleep deprivation, and explosions, then you can call it tactical.

(Says the guy who actually went and bought these because oh glob, so cool … but I am actually an EMT who has crawled into half-crushed cars, so it’s only half pathetic.)

¹ For a payout of US$250-$400; somewhere in the US$1800-$2800 today, adjusting for inflation, according to this calculator.

² Insert image of small Japanese children all shouting Ganbatte! in unison.

Finding New Things

Lots of stuff going on today. What shall we go to first?

  • Thought Bubble is one of those comics festivals that I really need to get to some day; events have been happening around Leeds for the week, and the creators-meet-fans part happens this weekend. Guests include Kate Beaton (who, according to the Twitter machine, is presently hanging about historical Viking sites, and may never leave them), Noelle Stevenson, John Allison (possessor of the greatest show banner of all time; unobstructed view of the image here), Gemma Correll, Darryl Cunningham, Nicholas Gurewitch, and Kate Leth.

    Exhibitors are listed in a fashion I’ve not seen before: by physical location (TB splits its exhibitors up across several venues), and then by a small image representative of a creator’s work, by property name (not all of which are spelled out). Thus, one may see that the New Dock Hall has an image for Gunnerkrigg Court (captioned, in case you didn’t recognize Coyote), and one may presume Tom Siddell will be there (along with Phillipa Rice and Retrofit Comics).

    This method has a lot of browsability — rather than look for names one is familiar with, you look for art that appeals and then figure out who it may be that creates it. It’s a little less helpful if the display image is atypical for a creator’s work, or if you want to quickly determine who will be there, but for promoting serendipity, it’s pretty great. But it means that I have a harder time recommending specific creators, so maybe next year TB could also provide the traditional alphabetical list? In any event, the creators to be found at the Royal Armouries Hall include Monica Gallagher, Isabel Melançon & Megan Lavey-Heaton; over at the TB Marquee you’ll find Emma Vieceli and Elaine Will.

    Two final thoughts: One, there are many more creators in each of those venues; two, I find it interesting that having to click on art samples that appealed and knowing nothing of the creators until I did, I appear to have discovered almost exclusively the work of women. Dudes, you got to up your game.

  • Speaking of Gemma Correll, I now have in my hands the very handsome Eat More Comics, with cover by Correll. I expect that I’m going to love about 80% of what’s inside, loathe about 7%, and like the remainder well enough. That’s actually what I thought was the chief strength of The Nib — editor Matt Bors didn’t seek to have just one point of view. By casting his net wide, I found stuff I never would have otherwise, including stuff I found horrible. It was an anechoic chamber for editorial opinion.

Spam of the day:

F3CkBuddyAlert my username is Volup2us Kisees :)

I’m not sure what kisees means, but I think it costs and extra fifty.

Lots Of Stuff Happening, Hooray

Where to start, where to start? How about in Yorkshire? I love their pudding.

  • Convention Season is almost done, with what I think is the last sizable comics show of the year going on in Leeds this weekend. Actually, the Thought Bubble Festival runs this entire week, but the bulk of the events are in and around the exhibitors/panels event this weekend on 15-16 November.

    Webcomicker (and related independent artist type) guests of Thought Bubble include Natasha Allegri, Danielle Corsetto, John Allison, Becky Dreistadt & Frank Gibson¹, Boulet, Emily Carroll, Gemma Correll², Darryl Cunningham, Hope Larson, Phil McAndrew, and Cameron Stewart.

    Additional webcomics types who will be exhibiting in the various venues include Rembrandt le Compte, Tom Siddell, Marc Ellerby, Paul Duffield, Lucy Bellwood, and many, many more. Tell them all I said hi.

  • As long as we’re talking about conventions, Howard Tayler³ wrote up a bit about a medical emergency that happened at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, DC, this past weekend. His part in resolving the issue was minor, but utterly necessary: nobody else and taken the initiative to simply report the person in distress to those that could help. He did, and in short order the situation was resolved. As Tayler put it:

    I’m an Eagle Scout. I can staunch bleeding, and feel for a pulse. I can do the Heimlich, and though my CPR skills are rusty, if I’m the only guy around who can do it, I’ll do all I can. But the critical skill in this particular situation, and in most of the convention medical emergencies I’m likely to run into, was the ability to speak clearly.

    Oh, and the ability to decide to speak.

    I concur with everything that he said, with the exception that you shouldn’t let your CPR skills get rusty. Going into a place with a lot of people (alternately, hanging out in the bar until the wee small hours)? Note the exits, where any public AEDs may be, and where the nearest place to get assistance (hotel reception, security post, whatever) is. That’s all. Oh, and take a CPR class, it ain’t rocket science4.

  • I mentioned Gemma Correll and The Nib up above; news comes from that esteemed aggregator of comics (esteemed because they pay) that they’re doing a calendar for the coming year if only they get enough orders. Your favorite Nib contributors will be illustrating obscure holidays, so if you ever wanted to see what Rich Stevens would do with National Fetish Day5, now is your chance. As of this writing, 183 more orders are needed over the next 15 days, or no calendrical joy for you.
  • Speaking of funding/pre-orders, Kel McDonald is now crowdfunding the first volume (of two) for her omnibus reprint of Sorcery 101, which will be a 750 page book covering the first five years of the story. Guys, that book is going to be friggin’ huge, and McDonald is offering it up as a backer reward of as little as US$30 which is insane.

    Oh, and did we mention that she had to redraw more than 450 pages because in their original form they weren’t suitable for print? Or that she’s hired colorist par excellence Mary Cagle to apply her magic? Let’s repeat it once more: thirty bucks for 750 pages in color is stupidly cheap.

  • Finally, speaking of crowdfunding and colorists, Ed Ryzowski does color duties for a bunch of your favorite webcomics and now he’s Kickstarting a new self-published comic book series. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend a comic project for something new to be created, but I make exceptions for creators who’ve proven themselves on other work, and Ryzowski counts by any measure.

    Season of the SHARK issues 1 to 4 will chronicle what happens when your underfunded espionage agency has to sell video rights to reality TV in order to do its work. It’ll be released digitally starting in December, with special low pricing for you early adopters. Honestly, this one looks like a hoot.

Spam of the day:

Get away from the traffic cone orange you envision, and type in the world of tangerine, bronze, burnt orange, gingery undertones and also the calla lily.

Lots of gingers in the UK. Just saying.

¹ As part of their Capture Creatures debut tour.

² She’s rapidly become my favorite regular contributor over at The Nib.

³ My evil twin, etc.

4 Didn’t take a class and somebody’s got no pulse? Call 911, or the appropriate emergency services number wherever you are. Open the shirt, make a fist, put in the center of the chest midway between the nipples. Wrap your other hand around the fist. Lock your elbows and push down hard and fast and don’t stop. Substitute somebody else in every two minutes because you’re gonna get tired. Now go take a class.

5 Or possibly Erika Moen, Zach Weinersmith, Gemma Correll, Matt Bors, Jen Sorensen, Brian McFadden, Eleri Harris, Andy Warner, Matt Lubchansky, Liza Donnelly, or Scott Bateman.

Immediate Future

A couple of quick thoughts for you today, as we careen through space on an improbably-small hunk of rock with an impossibly-narrow band of gases that somehow sustain all the life and — by extension — webcomics that we know to exist in the infinite universe. You know … Tuesday.

  • One of the smaller-scale, highly regarded comics shows takes place this weekend in Leeds, UK, as Thought Bubble Comic Con participates in the week-long Thought Bubble Festival. There are symposia and screenings in the festival all this week, and the convention itself at Clarence Dock on Saturday and Sunday. Indy- and web-comicky types in attendance will include John Allison, Kate Beaton, Becky Dreistadt & Frank Gibson, Jeffrey Brown, Darryl Cunningham, Meredith Gran, Nicholas Gurewitch (!), Olly Moss, Ethan Nicolle, Ramón Pérez, Tom Siddell, Cameron Stewart, and Maris Wicks, in addition to the British Comics Awards. Tell everybody I said hi.
  • For those not able to make it to Leeds this weekend, one might make plans to check out Evan Dahm’s new e-book, Lacunæ. The word lacuna (lacunæ is the plural) refers to a gap, missing section (as in text) or silence (as in music); Dahm’s book refers to the latter definition as it’s a collection of 18 “quiet places”, taken from a series of drawings of remote dwellings on remoter islands.

    He shared some of the drawings on Twitter as he worked on them, and they put me in mind of the further corners of Le Guin’s Earthsea, and that’s some damn good company to be in. It’s two bucks for nearly twenty pages of intricate, mood-setting places, and if I don’t see at least one of them stolen for either an album cover or a mural on the side of a van by this time next year, it’s only because we’re too far from the 1970s¹.

  • For the past few years, webcomickers have been molding the next generation(s) of comics artists, as diverse creators have presented workshops and lectures at various colleges or taught full-semester programs. To that number we’re about to add one Bradley² J³ Guigar will be teaching at the Hussian School of Art in Philadelphia. Lots of predecessors for teaching a class, but this is the bit that I think is unique — Guigar won’t be teaching drawing, or story, or joke writing, he’ll be teaching how to make a living in the arts:

    In January, I will be teaching a senior-level course on Arts Entrepreneurship … For a long time now, I’ve argued (sometimes loudly on Webcomics Weekly) that art schools need to do a better job of preparing their students for the Real World they’re being thrust into. And that means an overwhelming probability of freelance work and running a small business centered around one’s craft — not the studio jobs and staff positions that were prevalent decades ago.

    Hint for those Hussian students that end up sitting class with Professor Guigar next semester: he’s got a lot of Dad Jokes, he’s not embarrassed to drop them on you, and if you can make him laugh, you’ll get 30 to 90 seconds to check your email or texts before he’ll be able to continue. I encourage you to learn all you can from him (he really is frighteningly smart), and also to keep track of how many laugh breaks you get out of him before graduation; I’m going to place the over/under at 75, but would be thrilled to hear that I underestimated.

    Oh, and if you’re going to try to bribe him, learn how to make a proper whisky sour. Just sayin’.

¹ Not necessarily the worst place to be too far from.

² Bradford? Bradmark? Bradbourne? Bradburn? Braddock? Bradon? Bradshaw? Bradwell? Brady?

³ It is my firm belief that the “J” doesn’t stand for anything, but is in reference to Bullwinkle J Moose and Rocket J Squirrel. Whatever the truth of the name, he’s dreamy.

That’s Odd

I received this morning an email from a woman named Mary R with an observation and a question:

You mentioned in an article a while back that Box Brown lost the Everything Dies site and it got replaced by a linkfarm. Fleen still links to it though–is it there as a dire warning to other creators, or have you not gotten around to removing it yet?

Which I was glad to receive as I was under the impression that I had removed the link to what used to be Box Brown’s eschatological¹ comical exercise and was surprised to see that it was still there. Several attempts to kill it via WordPress resulted in processes that seemed like they should have succeeded, but did not. It did allow me to set the link to not display, but it’s still there in the database, mocking me.

As a result of Ms R’s eagle-eyed observation, we know have top men working on the WordPress issue, and I have taken the opportunity to comb through the blogroll and do some recategorizing, some pruning, and also to remedy some inexcusably-overlooked sites (welcome, Broodhollow!) so thanks to her. If you notice something odd about the site, please do let us know, as looking at it every day means that things you would find obvious have faded into the background noise of my brain.

  • Speaking of followups, the cancelled-due-to-superstorm webcomics creator hullabaloo at Wild Pig Comics in Kenilworth, NJ, is back on! Saturday, 15 December from noon to 4:00pm will be when you get to meet and/or greet Danielle Corsetto, Bill Ellis & Dani O’Brien, and Jamie Noguchi right about here, around the corner from Dunkin’ Donuts and right next to a great smelling hot dog shop.

    Wild Pig itself is convenient to major transportation arteries, they offer terrific discounts, and also have a lounge area/library (I’ve never seen that before in a comics shop) where the person you drag along with you can relax in comfy seating and maybe flip through a copy of BONE.

  • So everybody that went to Thought Bubble over the weekend had a fabulous time, by all accounts. The accounts also say that webcomics own John Allison took the “gong” (as our British cousins say) for Best Comic in the inaugural British Comics Awards. Fellow webcomicker Darryl Cunningham lost out in the Best Book category to Nelson, an anthology featuring the absolute best of British cartooning talent (including Allison and Cunningham, so it’s like Cunningham won anyway and Allison won one-and-a-half times). As previously noted, webcomicker Josceline Fenton was nominated for both Best Comic and Emerging Talent (which she won), and I see she was also part of Nelson, making her somebody to really keep an eye on in the future.
  • Launched over the weekend (and piggybacking off of attention given by recent a Carson Daly appearance and a teaser/trailer featuring Nick Offerman), a Kickstarter campaign to get Axe Cop into the one media channel it hasn’t yet conquered: documentary film. The goal is to release by May 2013 to coincide with the launch of the Axe Cop TV show, which given the nearly four-year effort to bring Stripped to a final cut, seems ambitious.

    However, there are factors that probably make the Axe Copumentary simpler — it appears that filming has been done over the past several years of the Axe Cop phenomenon, and having a singular focus would certainly make for an easier time with respect to the number of people that you’d have to interview, trying to come up with a coherent narrative through-line, and heck, just getting copyright clearances for all the visuals. ANYway, if you want to watch Malachai Nicolle grow up on camera, now’s your chance.

¹ Fleen: not just rumination on webcomics, but also a vocabulary-building exercise. You’re welcome.

This Is The First Day That Really Feels Normal In The Past Two Weeks

No new big surprises or aftereffects from the superstorm, gas rationing got lifted this morning, trains are almost back to their usual, semi-fictional schedule, and last night’s Adventure Time season premiere was amazing. Feelin’ good!

  • I have been neglectful of pointing out that Thought Bubble is running this week in Leeds, with the emphasis on this coming weekend, 17-18 November. Guests of webcomicky note include Kate Beaton, John Allison¹, Becky Dreistadt & Frank Gibson, Scott C, Darryl Cunningham, Paul Duffield, Cameron Stewart, and Huw Davis will be there also, but he may be a bit tired on Sunday as he’s running a 10K race that morning. Maybe bring him a smoothie or something?

    There will be book debuts (including from Marc Ellerby, and the European debut of Tiny Kitten Teeth), panels (including a discussion on digital comics: Bury Theatre, Royal Armouries, 1:40pm – 2:30pm, with Dreistadt, Gibson, Beaton, C, Duffield, and Simon Fraser), and the annual British Comics Awards (Bury Theatre, Royal Armouries, 6:00pm – 7:00pm). Any/all [web]comics fans in the middle part of England are encouraged to drop by and say “hi”.

  • New Wigu! Times two! Jeff Rowland has apparently found a moment’s free time in between the wedding and the immense holiday rush of new things to drop comics on us! Add in a new Overcompensating on the same day and it’s like Christmas came early for me.
  • Hey, know what I haven’t mentioned for a while? Recipe Comix, courtesy of Saveur magazine, which had been a bit spare on the ground, but have of late resumed an approximately biweekly schedule. I bring this up as a twitter exchange yesterday allowed me to point Mike Russell towards Helen Rosner, who handles submissions for Recipe Comix in between getting to enjoy fabulous meals that she then tweets about for the sole purpose of making me hungry.

    Ahem. That is to say, if you have a connection to food (and don’t we all, particularly in this harvest/holiday timeframe) and make comics, you might want to drop a line to Ms Rosner and see if your idea would work for Recipe Comix. Guys, let’s come up with so many pitches that RC has to run weekly — that is the definition of a win for creators (you get paid), a win for Saveur (content to share) and a win for me (new food experiences to check out). Get cracking.

¹ Speaking of John Allison, a Tumblrpost of his from this morning caught my eye and made me snort out loud. A certain percentage of my readership may well have attended the same college I did, and if they did so in a nearly 30 year span from about 1972 to about 2000, then the name “Thad Smith” evokes not muscle-bound beach hunks, but rather a lanky professor of political science who just may be the greatest teacher to ever push chalk.

From teaching students how to read Pentagon black budgets to breaking Kris Kristofferson’s collarbone in a rugby match during his own undergrad days, Thad (as he insisted on being called) was never less than a font of fascinating information who was careful to never let on what his opinions were as he forced his classes to defend their own. Hell, in four years the only political opinion I ever got him to ‘fess up to was an almost visceral dislike of Ed Meese, who is somehow still alive and as soon as I’m done writing this sentence will go back to being forgotten as he so richly deserves.

So yeah, that was pretty funny.

NYCC: A Talk With George

Couple of quick notes for you before we get to the main discussion today. One, I’m on Pacific Time this week (and with intermittent internet access), so expect less-timely-than-usual postings. Two, congrats to webcomicky types Darryl Cunningham and John Allison for their nominations in the British Comics Awards (for Best Book and Best Comic, respectively), to be presented in a month’s time at Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds. Also thanks to the BCAs for pointing me towards Josceline Fenton, nominated for Best Comic for Hemlock, a webcomic with which I was not previously familiar. Fenton is also nominated as Emerging Talent for broader body of work, which is going to bear some examination in the very near future.

Okay: George (it is the general policy of this blog to refer to people by their full names on first reference, and to prefer family name thereafter, with first name used to make thing read well, but really — “George” is the only way to name this fine gentleman).

He doesn’t make himself the center of attention, but he’s a significant guy in the world of web/indy comics. When he’s not scouting for talent and finding people for projects at Oni, he’s the behind-the-scenes make-things-happen guy in the Benign Kingdom, and may understand Kickstarter better than Kickstarter does (I believe he may have been involved in more campaigns than anybody else on the planet at this point). But apart from the day job, the Kingdom appears to be his major avenue for world domination right now, so that’s what we talked about. With the second B9 collection getting ready to ship, I wanted to find out what the future directions for the Kingdom might be.

First of all, I have to change the terminology I’ve been using, because “B9.5” isn’t going to cut it much longer; it worked when there was an original book, then a second book, but plans are for two more artbook collections every year (Spring and Fall), so I’d be running out of decimals pretty quickly. Like the Fall 2012 collection, these new books will be:

  • collections of four artists
  • by invitation (please, no unsolicited submissions)
  • ongoing for the forseeable future

That last one is pretty important — the original four creators (Ota/Green/Dreistadt/Dahm) won’t be returning until 2014, which means that the intervening 18-24 months are already planned out and the respective details are already being worked out¹. George wouldn’t spill as to who the contributors to the 2013 books would be “until pen’s on paper”, but he was quite interested in knowing who I would want to see included. I dropped some names² on him, carefully looking for tells that I’d guessed correctly, but he gave away nothing.

More than just having a beautiful book of your best/favorite work, being in one of the biannual collections means that a creator is now “part of the Kingdom”, with the ability to do other projects that strike your fancy; the Kingdom means having a structure to arrange for the logistics of production and fulfillment, as well as serving as a guarantee of quality. As the number of projects from the Kingdom increases, expect to see an ever-wider audience that was not familiar with the creators in question³ to dominate the purchasing, based on a string of previous projects, each successful and full of positive feedback from backers.

These projects can be solo or in combination with other creators (George allowed that there will be an Exquisite Beast/Capture Creatures tandem project), and I can think of a few other projects that I’d love to see — I’ve mentioned more than once that Aaron Diaz should do an artbook of dinosaurs, and I all but begged Anthony Clark over the weekend to revive his collaboration with Emmy Cicierega, Laserpony Studios. Heck, while casually talking with Evan Dahm and Frank Gibson, we accidentally came up with an idea for a Kingdom book that would be awesome and unique and I’m not sure I should talk too much about it.

So there you are — the Kingdom is an ongoing concern, it will continue to expand as makes sense, it’s got a plan for convention appearances, and a store is on the way. The foundations are solid, in part because nothing (not even more Big Gay Ice Cream than you could eat in a lifetime) can distract George when he has a goal in mind. Also, never forget that he has the power to end the world, so let’s all make sure that he meets those goals — it’s safer for all concerned.

¹ One of the key things to realize about George: the man pays attention and has a plan at all times. The first B9 collection shipped a month early, and the only reason the second isn’t going out early is that a quality issue made the first printing unacceptable, causing a delay to merely “at the time we promised”. George is ready to go to press the day the Kickstarter ends, because he’s planned for submissions and layout before he announces the project.

² In no particular order (and keeping in mind that the goal of B9 is to provide a channel for creators to do artbooks separate from their usual work, so creators already working in an artbook mode like Scott C don’t really need the Kingdom): Carly Monardo, Dylan Meconis, Ursula Vernon, Erika Moen, Vera Brosgol, Emily Carroll, Karl Kerschl, Cameron Stewart, and man oh man I’d kill to see a book of Randy Milholland’s watercolors. I have no idea who on that list would have the time/inclination, but there you go — more than enough people for 2013 and beyond.

³ This is already occurring. The first B9 collection had about 20% of the backers come from Kickstarter itself rather than from the established audiences of the creators; for the second collection, it was over 60% from people searching out KS projects to back.

Happy Bradmas

According to that unimpeachable source, Brad Guigar is 43 years old today. In honor of the Bradmastide season, we will feature an interview with Brad tomorrow, provided I can figure out how to work the digression about the Great Unmedicated Bipolar Pumpkin into thing without it looking like we’re both a pair of loonballs and/or drunk. No promises. In the meantime, how about some other happenings from around our corner of comics?

  • The Hugo Award nominations hit over the weekend, with an odd shift in the universe of sci-fi awardsdom; that faint silence you hear is the lack of a nomination for the fine folks at Studio Foglio, whose work on Girl Genius has literally owned the Best Graphic Story category in all the prior years of its existence. The Foglios graciously decline nominations this year, leading to the following slate:
    • Digger, by Ursula Vernon
    • Fables Vol 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham
    • Locke & Key Volume 4, Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
    • Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton
    • The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross

    Two webcomics, three comic book collections; let’s address Schlock Mercenary first. There was an … unfortunate comment left at The Beat¹ that decried Howard Tayler’s inclusion on the list and stated he was only nominated because he was “whoring” (that’s a quote) his audience to get nominations. Leaving aside the rather obvious flaw in the logic², one should note that Tayler did ask his audience to support a number of eligible works by other creators. Of the works Tayler was advocating for, he was involved in two and not involved in five, and one of the two he worked on got nominated³. If he’s whoring, he’s the least effective whore ever.

    Not content to impugn the quality of Mr Tayler’s work, the commenter went on to idly speculate that Ursula Vernon engaged in similar, whorey practices. Leaving aside the well-documented fact that I loves me some Digger, ten seconds with Google would show that while Ms Vernon has spent the (roughly) one year since Digger wrapped writing frequently about her garden, interesting birds, amphibians gettin’ on in her garden, oversized turkeys (both free-ranging out by the back fence and in the roaster for Thanksgiving), mulch, mulch, and more mulch, and spoofs of Regency romance novels complete with ninjas, not once did she ask for consideration in any awards.

    Look. We all have our favorites. We all think our taste is impeccable. We all love what we love4. But before you accuse a creator (of whom you are barely aware) in a manner that is unseemly at best and incredibly dickish at worst, perhaps just a smidgen of due diligence? Awesome.

  • Rounding out the nominations in Best Fan Artist, we find that Randall Munroe is again recognized. It’s a weird category, but as long as Randall keeps cranking out things that make me think like today’s update, I don’t have any problems with him being nominated for everything up to and including Science Cartoon Pope5.
  • Not related to the Hugo Awards, but within the realms of engineering: Angela Melick is having a launch party for her second book in Downtown Vancouver on Saturday, 14 April. It’s in a bar, which can only mean fun times. And the very next day, Jorge Cham’s The PhD Movie goes on sale, with a newly announced five percent of profits going to support Endeavor College Prep in East Los Angeles. Proof positive that engineers are the best people? Possibly.

¹ I’m not calling out the commenter by name; while his words were rash and unwarranted, I’m more interested in taking the behavior to task than the person.

² Namely, that if Tayler were capable of whoring himself so effectively, I’m sure his wife would prefer he use his whorish powers to bring in some money for things like groceries and mortgage payments, rather than a small statue of a rocket. It’s a very nice small statue of a rocket, but I’m pretty sure the local Food o Rama would prefer cash.

³ He also shares a nomination (along with Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jordan Sanderson) for the Writing Excuses podcast in the Best Related Work category, but did not advocate for it as far as I can find in a cursory search.

4 C.f.: previous graf, where I loves me some Digger.

5 Rest of the nominees in no particular order: Aaron Diaz, Zach Weiner, Dante Shepherd, Tony Piro, David Morgan-Mar, and Darryl Cunningham. Honorable mention to Jon Rosenberg for Cartoon Neil DeGrasse Tyson With A Jetpack.